Burden of Guilt

Cushions and Contractions

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema with the exception of Caranthir who appears by kind permission of Evendim. This story was written purely for pleasure and not for profit.

A tiny spot of Faramir's blood on his fingertip could hardly be termed a catastrophe! Aragorn could have laughed out loud at his foolishness at taking his 'vision' so seriously.

"We had better change before joining the ladies," Faramir, ever mindful of court etiquette suggested, glancing ruefully at his sweat soaked shirt. The sparring had been especially energetic that morning. "I will go to my apartments and meet you later."

"My rooms are much nearer," Aragorn replied, "You can borrow a clean shirt of mine .It will be quicker if we change together."

"Thank you," Faramir replied following the King into his room and pulling the sweat soaked shirt over his head and casting it aside.

"There is water and a towel on the washstand." Aragorn told him as he did likewise, thinking as he did so what a change had come over Faramir these last few months, as before the Elven scar treatment, he would have gone to almost any lengths to avoid changing his shirt in front of anyone else, most especially his King.

He found himself surreptitiously looking at Faramir's throat again; still anxious that he was injured, but nothing at all was visible now. The incident had shaken him, but he resolved to put it from his mind, as sword practise was vital for them both to keep their skills finely honed.

It was wonderful that now his Steward was so relaxed and comfortable in his company and to see him in such good health and spirits. Faramir now moved with grace and ease when once he had struggled even to raise his arms above his head without pain while now he glowed with health and vigour, the effect heightened by the slight tan he had acquired the day they went swimming.

"Can I borrow a blue shirt?" Faramir asked as he towelled himself vigorously," That is Eowyn's favourite colour."

" Of course, here you are! We are so grateful to Eowyn." Aragorn said, tossing the garment to him and choosing a red shirt for himself as that was his wife's favourite shade. "Arwen is feeling nervous as the birth approaches and it helps her to have Eowyn constantly at her side."

"We will all be glad when the baby is safely born." Faramir replied, his voice muffled as he drew the borrowed shirt over his head. "You will make a wonderful father!" Smoothing down the garment, he proceeded to borrow a comb to tidy his mane of black hair.

"As will you, my friend." Aragorn replied. "You will give your child all the love you were denied. I will be relieved when our baby is here; poor Arwen is so large she can hardly move. It cannot be much longer! Come on, we had better hurry as Arwen is somewhat impatient at present!"

"You had better tidy your hair too or she will go into premature labour with fright at the sight of you!" Faramir teased, handing his friend the comb.

Aragorn's unruly locks looked wilder than ever having survived sword practice, washing and drying and the change of clothing and now resembled the shaggy coat of a dog, of the that has to be combed in order for it to see where it is going. "No one cared how I looked when I was a Ranger!" he groaned.

Sighing, Aragorn struggled to tame the unruly locks; ignoring his Steward's smirking. Brought up within the rigours of Denethor's court, Faramir would consider it unthinkable to appear other than perfectly groomed in the presence of ladies or his superiors.

Eowyn helped the Queen waddle back to the couch. "That was a fine display of swordsmanship!" she complimented the men as they entered. "You only see that when the combatants trust each other completely."

Aragorn grinned as he gave his wife an affectionate kiss.

"I am lucky Faramir is here, so we can practise with real blades sometimes, as there is none other save Eomer that I could trust with my life like that." he said.

"What about my brothers?" Arwen asked with a frown.

"I trust them too, but being Elves, they are too quick for me," the King replied, dodging the cushion his wife threw at him in mock indignation.

"So we mere mortals are slow then?" Faramir followed the Queen's example, only with better aim, hitting the King on the chest.

" Show some respect for your King! I will have your head!" Aragorn chortled as he hurled the cushion back aiming for his Steward's head, only to be hit by two more thrown by the women.

Laughing the two men collapsed on the heap of scattered cushions as they continued their mock fight. Eowyn and the Queen laughed till tears rolled down their cheeks at their husbands' antics.

Mid September

He was weeping over the prone form on the bed, but he could not see their face, as they were shrouded in blankets. All he knew was, it was someone he loved dearly. He bent forward to pull the blankets aside.

"Estel, wake up!"

Aragorn slowly opened his eyes and tried to force himself to full consciousness and away from the blackness of his nightmare. While he was living in the wilds as a ranger, it had been easy for him to wake instantly alert, but during these last three years, he had grown accustomed to a life of ease and learned to sleep deeply. For a moment, he felt he was back in the wilds, lying on damp grass.

"Wake up!" Arwen's voice was more insistent.

"What?" he mumbled, blinking at her." It is not dawn yet!"

" I am having contractions and my waters have just broken! The baby is coming!"

Aragorn was now fully alert and leapt out of bed. Grabbing his breeches, he pulled them on over his nightshirt.

"I will fetch Eowyn." He knew he should think of something profound to say at this moment, but the words would not come as he hurried out of the room to fetch help. For the last week or two, either Ioreth or Eowyn had slept in a bedroom adjoining the Queen's chambers in case they were needed.

Eowyn, a robe pulled over her nightgown, answered the King's knock quickly. Always a light sleeper, she was quickly alert and seeing the look on Aragorn's face, knew at once what was happening.

"Go back to Arwen!" she instructed him. "I will send a servant to summon Ioreth and will be with you in a moment.

Aragorn rushed back to his wife who moaned as a contraction came. Aragorn concentrated and held his hand over her belly, using his healing powers to ease her pain.

"I am afraid!" Arwen gasped. "It is too soon!"

Aragorn gently stroked her hair.

"Hush, my Love, the babe could take after me, remember! Eowyn said she thought you would give birth around now, so the time must be right!"

Just then Eowyn entered the room, and quickly grasped the situation.

"She is having contractions, I think." Aragorn said helplessly.

"I need to examine her to make sure, if you would leave us?" Eowyn instructed.

Anxious about his wife, the King hesitated.

"Shoo!" Eowyn said impatiently, propelling him towards the door. "Go and ask Faramir to stay with you for the next few days, while your wife and I deliver your heir! You can look after each other as I must stay constantly by Arwen's side for at least three days!"

" A good idea, if he can endure my company! I will see that you get a short break each day as that is allowed" Aragorn replied, as he obediently retired to his dressing room, closing the door behind him.

A brief examination confirmed what they suspected.

"You are in labour and everything is happening just as it should be." Eowyn soothed as she slid a dry shift over the Queen's swollen body and called Aragorn back into the room.

"The babe is on its way. Now stay calm!" Eowyn instructed. "Ioreth is coming and we will take you to the rooms prepared for your confinement I will help you to dress first. If you feel another contraction, don't panic just take deep breaths! Now which of your ladies will be attending you?"

"Lady Meril and Lady Morwen. Several maids are coming too, to assist with fetching and carrying. They can be handed buckets of water at the chamber's entrance or pass messages to the guards when need be."

Arwen let Eowyn lead her to her dressing room and clothe her in a loose gown while Aragorn moving restlessly to the door, lingered anxiously on the threshold, looking for Ioreth.

Arwen was already dressed and ready by the time the elderly midwife appeared.

"You are late!" Aragorn reproached her.

"And you, Lord Elfstone, know nothing of first babies!" She retorted. "They take their time in coming, it could take two days or more!"

A/N

A very big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to review. I greatly enjoy reading your comments and it makes all the hard work worthwhile to know you are enjoying the story.

"Burden of Guilt" will be taking a short break as I have a special story for next week to celebrate Aragorn's coronation. As several readers asked for more stories, I thought I would write one!

When it returns the angst will begin in earnest, as this was the last fairly lighthearted chapter.

In response to your queries,

My historical information comes from a variety of sources gained over the years, not just the Web, though the BBC history Site is a mine of information.

AU means 'alternate universe', which is a story that uses established characters but changes what happened in the original, for example Boromir might not die or the ring be destroyed. On this Site Evendim is a good example of a skilled writer of this genre.

Tolkien did not say whether Eldarion or one of the daughters was Aragorn's first child.

I think both Aragorn and Faramir still have much to learn about women, having spent so much of their lives in a male dominated environment.

This story should be able to stand on its own but I think readers who have read the prequels especially "Shadow and Thought" will probably get the most enjoyment. I tend to see my stories, almost as one long novel divided into sections!

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